The unofficial start of summer is here. Folks are vaccinated. And ready to go.
Expect lots of company on the roads as travelers are hitting the road enjoying the beaches and other attractions throughout the tri-state area this Memorial Day weekend.
AAA Travel expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this holiday weekend, with more than 37 million people expected to travel 50 miles or more from home from Thursday through Monday.
That is an increase of 60 percent from last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000. The pandemic kept vacationers and weekend warriors home.
“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions.”
But, travelers looking to kick off summer, need to still be aware of COVID-related restrictions and hefty gas prices as they hit the road and drive to locations near and far.
According to AAA, the average price for gas in the five-county Philadelphia area, including Bucks, is $3.16 a gallon, and expected to hold steady at least through the three-day weekend.
Gas prices vary slightly from elsewhere in the region. If you are heading to the beach in Delaware or New Jersey, you might want to take advantage of lower prices at the pump where they were on average $2.97 a gallon and $3.06 a gallon respectively.
According to National Weather Service, conditions will vary slightly depending on destination, but travelers in the tri-state area can expect a cool, damp holiday with temps ranging in the mid-60s with an abundance of clouds and possible showers.
Conditions are expected to clear by Monday, and travelers should expect a mostly sunny day, with temperatures in the mid-70s.
COVID restrictions also vary by state.
Delaware Gov. John Carney recently modified his state’s COVID-related state of emergency declaration, eliminating social distancing requirements and removing Delaware’s mask mandate.
Carney’s decision was based on the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advises that fully vaccinated people can stop distancing and wearing masks in most places indoors and outdoors, except in certain crowded and congregate settings.
The CDC also maintained that unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in public settings and around those who live outside of their household.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently lifted his state’s mask mandate, social distancing rules. Murphy said people no longer have to wear face coverings indoors or maintain social distancing requirements in most places in New Jersey.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this month announced that event and gathering maximum occupancy limits will be increased to 50 percent for indoor events and gatherings and 75 percent for outdoor events and gatherings.
“As more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evolves, we can continue to move forward with the commonwealth’s reopening efforts,” Wolf said. “We recognize the significant strain businesses have faced during COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
“Throughout the last year and half, we have seen businesses continue to put the safety of their patrons first and I believe they will continue to do so even with this capacity increase.”
According to the Wolf administration, face coverings are still to be worn indoors and outdoors when away from your home. Otherwise, the administration is operating In accordance with the latest CDC guidance as well.
Traveling tips and guides
There are a plethora of online tips for travelers.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 511 portal provides travelers with real-time road conditions, including hazards, detours and traffic jams.
Similarly, New Jersey’s Department of Transportation has a portal that provides the same information for drivers in the Garden State.
AAA’s “Triptik” guide provides similar information, but can be useful to travelers heading out of state.
Looking to stay in Bucks County? Visit Bucks County, the official tourism bureau for the county, has an extensive online guide of amenities and venues to consider.
And many towns in Bucks County are hosting Memorial Day parades and services after cancelling last year’s events due to the pandemic.